The Vatican has announced it will be lending one of its “Popemobiles“, the specially designed vehicles used by the Pope during outdoor public appearances, to Dr. Riek Machar for his visit to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, next week.
The vehicle – a Fiat-Chrysler Jeep similar to one used by the Pope during his recent visit to the USA – is already en route to Juba. It has a bulletproof glass-front roof with open sides allowing rebel-leader to interact and shake hands with the public.
Dr. Machar, accompanied by the Ethiopian Prime-Minister, is expected to pay Juba a much-anticipated one-day visit aimed at discussing final arrangements to resolve the little-under-two-years war. On his arrival, the “Popemobile” will be waiting for him.
Reports from Juba indicated that preparations are in full swing for a grand and popular reception of the former Vice-President turned rebel-leader (not to forget future First Vice President) who fled for his life in December 2013 and later formed the SPLM-IO rebel movement.
The unconfirmed route of Machar’s motorcade is expected to (slowly) drive along Airport Road, through the Ministries with a stop-over at the John Garang Mausoleum where he is expected to lay some plastic flowers on Garang’s grave, and then silently stare at Garang’s portrait picture for around a minute.
It is also still unclear whether he will pass-by and stop to see his former residence that still bears scars of the battle in Juba, rumour has it that GOSS may quickly patch the roof as a precaution in case the Pope Mobile drives past.
President Kiir will then meet him and the Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn at J1 the State House.
Huge crowds are expected to line along the route. Like the Pope, Machar will probably be waving to the crowd and make ‘unplanned’ stops to kiss the heads of a few kids or be spat at (a sign of blessing) by some older members of the crowd. His largest crowd will be waiting in anticipation for this regal-style visit at lunchtime in POC3 UN House Jebel where he is expected to have a locally produced meal from WFP rations with thousands of well-wishers.
Numbers entering the Protection of Civilians site are expected to swell with additional fans and supporters of Machar coming. There are unconfirmed reports that masses are already walking from neighbouring states to be in Juba in time for the reception as it takes a few days to arrive there.
Saakam has also learned that Machar is scheduled to take an afternoon tea (and host his travel companion the PM of Ethiopia) at POC1 UN House, Jebel. The served tea will be locally brewed tea with sugar and locally produced/baked cake before he returns to JIA (Juba International Airport) for his return to Addis with the Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn.
The weather forecast, according to the Traditional Rain-makers Union In Opposition (TRU-IO), will be favourable as the return of Machar has been ‘prophesied’.